Members of the Student Government Association’s (SGA) health and wellness working group are currently working to introduce a handbook that will address the medical amnesty policy for student athletes. This handbook will expand upon the comprehensive medical amnesty policy introduced by the College last semester and provide more clarity and consistency around drug and alcohol rules for student athletes.
The medical amnesty policy introduced last semester allows students to seek and receive medical attention for an alcohol or drug-related emergency without facing disciplinary action for violating College policy. If granted amnesty, the student who required medical attention is referred to counseling services as a supportive measure but does not face any disciplinary action for the alcohol or drug use. Students who proactively seek help for others are also often eligible for medical amnesty. The policy is only applicable for a first offense.
The medical amnesty policy is intended to make the campus a safer place for students. According to the 2021-2022 Student Handbook, the policy “fosters responsible decision-making, reduces barriers to calling for help, and encourages students to take active steps in maintaining the health and safety of the community in a situation involving an alcohol and/or drug related medical emergency.”
However, student athletes may not be eligible for medical amnesty, as many sports teams have their own rules around drug and alcohol use. The policy currently does not limit teams or organizations from applying their own rules. A student athlete could be suspended or removed from a team even if they received no formal disciplinary sanctions from the College.
Last semester, Jason Leong `22 and other members of SGA worked to include the medical amnesty policy in the student handbook. This year, Leong and others are working to extend medical amnesty to student athletes and to make the drug and alcohol rules for student athletes more clear.
The athletic department does not currently have a policy that determines what sanctions apply to a student when amnesty is applied. These policies can be confusing for student athletes, and it is ultimately up to the coach to decide if a student receives disciplinary action.
“In the current policy, student athletes involved in cases where amnesty is applied still have their coaches notified, and it’s up to the coaches discretion whether or not to put a sanction on that student, and that sanction varies,” Leong said. “This is almost always on a case by case basis.”
The handbook would standardize alcohol and drug policies across teams so that student athletes are aware of the rules and what sanctions may apply to them. Leong believes that extending the policy to student athletes will create a safer environment on campus and encourage students to seek out medical attention when they need it.
“Medical amnesty is about the health and safety of a student,” Leong said. “It is important to break down any barriers to a student getting help. If one of those barriers may be a student fearing that their coach may get upset, suspend them from the team, or enact some sort of disciplinary action, I think that it is important to break down that barrier because it is one step that could be preventing a student from getting help. Even if those situations are rare, which I don’t think they are, it’s still worth it to make sure students get help.”
Softball captain and SGA Vice President Laura Powell `22 also thinks the College would benefit from more clarity around the drug and alcohol policies for student athletes and expanding students’ ability to receive medical amnesty.
“Even if it wasn’t your teammate that needed help, but another student athlete that you recognized or knew, just having a standard policy would help so everyone knew and could help others out without having to worry about someone getting kicked off their team,” Powell said.
Next week, SGA will meet with administrators to discuss the handbook. They hope to provide clarity for students by outlining all the policies related to alcohol and drugs for student athletes specifically, and extend the medical amnesty policy to student athletes.
~ Veronica McIntyre `24